How Camp Diaries enriches kids from low-income families with holistic education

Founder Milind Chandwani says the NGO is active in Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Ahmedabad, having impacted more than 4,000 kids with the help of over 1,500 volunteers

October 05, 2019 02:16 pm | Updated 02:16 pm IST

Milind Chandwani may be familiar to those who’ve been watching MTV Roadies Real Heroes . While we saw Milind’s dream for his NGO Camp Diaries flourish, we didn’t see the deliberation before finally deciding to come on board. He infers that he did it purely for the growth of Camp Diaries and we’ve got to admit, there’s been quite the ripple effect since then.

A former Teach For India fellow with an impressive academic background, Milind’s mindset was centred around the true power of an all-rounded education as a right rather than as a privilege. Camp Diaries empowers kids from government or low-income private schools through eight diverse extra-curricular activities such as beat-boxing, arts and crafts, dance, theatre and more.

So how does it work? The camps are conducted for five weekends in each school; that said, there’s a lot that can be said for the intensity of the classes. This isn’t a one-off project; it’s something Milind wants to make as far-reaching as possible. Currently active in Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad, he wants to keep the kindness growing. While he started a set-up in Chennai, it’s not currently operational. In fact, Camp Diaries Hyderabad is recruiting more volunteers with a knack for teaching and for the arts. Given funding is an issue, he’s started a Milaap campaign for more backing .

“I started off not knowing why I was doing what I was doing,” he admits, “I was even ready to quit. Then I reached a point of not celebrating any festivals, rather spending those times with the kids.” By January 2017, Milind had shaped Camp Diaries as a cohesive product. The biggest change as an educator he experienced since then is that his mission grew more intense and more supported, and, of course, more specific. Schools inducted under Camp Diaries included Government High School Bandimet in Begumpet.

Many of the students come from broken households, he admits, and some of the students’ circumstances include abusive families. Milind then decided to bring in a three-phase programme on women safety, including lessons on the sensitisations of men through theatre and plays and around the legalities in place in regards to domestic violence. There were also self-defence classes offered, as well as facilitation classes where students could be put in touch with the right police authorities and doctors in case of an emergency, to feel safe and heard. “Women often have a fear of not being taken seriously by authorities, so we want to eradicate that bad feeling,” he explains. Though this project has been put on hold, Milind says the state government and She Teams are in full support of the endeavour.

Working with Camp Diaries has made Milind highly aware of the infrastructural problems of our education systems. “A lot of change-makers enter the system at the same time and all of them work in different directions, and some day, hopefully, they come together to make a central change. Another way is to better equip low-income private schools and government school with better resources to empower both teachers and students. That’s when you cease needing social entities because there isn’t a problem to begin with,” he avers. “Unfortunately, we have social workers who aim to increase that dependency rather than reducing it.” This speaks to Camp Diaries’ ethos of making children self-enterprising and informed individuals with better futures. However, it’s safe to say these ideals will take time and effort to make a reality.

Essentially, the type of classes and workshops have evolved in the past two years, becoming more deep-rooted around contemporary issues. Funnily enough, many parents of the students also expressed a wish to learn more themselves. “In my community, the parents love what we do. They often approach the schools’ respective principals for more sessions with Camp Diaries. Parents wanted classes on how to open a bank account, mathematics, how to go to the airport and fly, and so on. So we taught the children and gave them the responsibility to take those lessons to their families.”

After all, why should only kids have the fun?

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